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Arthur Miller was certainly aware of the nature of Greek tragedy and made a deliberate decision to use the structure of Greek drama as a basis for his play A View from the Bridge, as he had previously done for All My Sons. The central character, Eddie Carbone, fits well with the central figure in All My Sons and Death of a Salesman, being a family patriarch who has also been a complete failure as a father. He has no children of his own, so he looks after his wife's young niece. Over time, he has developed unconscious sexual feelings toward her, affecting everyone around him. Eddie is an ordinary man living among other ordinary men. The high-born nature of the traditional tragic hero is gone now, though Carbone can be seen as a middle-class version of a high-born hero because he is respected in his community and the head of his household. He is no closer to the gods than anyone else, however, though members of the Italian community have a religious background that colors much of their thinking about life.
Catherine is the niece who has lived with Eddie and his wife for some time, and Eddie worries that she is becoming too attractive, meaning that she might attract other men. She is unhappy about his disapproval of her and does not see that he has an unhealthy interest in her, something that he himself does not really understand, either. Catherine has a job offer, and Eddie resists because he believes she will meet more men at work and be out of his control. His wife, Beatrice, ahs started noticing that Eddie is too interested in Catherine, so she wants Catherine to take the job. Complicating matters is the arrival of two cousins from the old country, illegal immigrants whose real situation has to be kept secret within the family. The male cousins clash with Eddie as tensions increase because of his anxiety about Catherine, Beatrice's growing awareness of what is happening to him, and Catherine's efforts to be her own person. One night, these tensions erupt and Eddie goes too far, kissing Catherine and starting a fight with cousin Rodolpho.
Eddie's attraction to Catherine and his refusal to deal with it can be identified as his tragic flaw, a flaw that is exacerbated as he drinks, clashes with those around him, and betrays the cousins and some other immigrants to the authorities. For Eddie, his tragic act involves a telephone call to Immigration, something he refuses to admit when challenged by cousin Marco. For Eddie, the loss of his reputation is great after Marco denounces him, and he only wants to regain it. However, he refuses to admit his feelings for Catherine and so denies Beatrice before going to challenge Marco, where he meets his death. His greater tragic flaw is his refusal to admit the truth and his dedication to protecting his reputation even when he knows it is a lie.
The lawyer Alfieri tells Eddie not to make the call and states, "You won't have a friend in the world, Eddie! Even those who understand will turn against you." Eddie does not listen and is also revealed as the one who made the call. Oedipus and Eddie both are warned not to act in a certain way, yet they do so just the same and are destroyed for it. What Miler wrote about tragedy applies to this particular play, for he noted,
The conflict in tragedy, therefore, is not between man and some irresistible fate; it shows the hero struggling against social forces that can be changed or overcome. For, as Miller says, tragedy must always show how the catastrophe might have been avoided, how good might have been allowed to express itself instead of succumbing to evil. (Bloom 95)
Miller's form of tragic hero thus differs fro that of Sophocles because society has changed.
Bloom, Harold. Arthur Miller. New York: Chelsea House, 1987.
Chanter, Tina. "Tragic Dislocations: Antigone's Modern Theatrics."
Differences, Volume 10, Issue 1 (1998), 75-97.
Miller, Arthur. A View from the Bridge. New York: Viking, 1959.
Sophocles. Oedipus. In David Greene and Richard Lattimore. Greek…[continue]
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